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Mary Ann Smart


My work focuses on social dimensions of opera in nineteenth-century Europe. Through various repertoires and critical approaches, the constant in my research is a desire to make sense out of concrete musical elements, by building a lively sense of the settings and mentalities within which the music was originally heard. In articles on two famous sopranos of the 1830s and 40s, Erminia Frezzolini and Rosine Stoltz, I used letters, publicity pamphlets, newspaper articles, and sketches and scores by Donizetti and Verdi to measure the influence these divas may have had on the conception of the roles they created. My book, Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera, draws equally on textual sources (treatises on acting, staging manuals) and musical evidence to suggest close ties between musical patterns and physical gesture in repertory stretching from the first French grand operas of the 1830s to Verdi’s Aida and Wagner’s Ring. Both of these inquiries were stimulated partly by archival finds made while I was researching the sources for my critical edition of Donizetti’s last opera, Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal (published in 2004, recorded in 2006 by Opera Rara).
My most recent work tackles the old question of the political meanings of Italian opera in Verdi’s lifetime, during the fight for Italian unification known as the “risorgimento.” The book I am currently writing, Risorgimento Fantasies: Italian Opera and Italian Politics to 1848, locates the debate about opera’s political significance not in the symbolism of plots or musical structures, nor in the personal opinions of the composers involved, but in networks of political activism and opinion formation that granted a central place to opera. Chapters of the book focus on clusters of cultural activity such as journalists and educators in Milan just after the defeat of Napoleon who also penned libretti, reviewed performances at La Scala, and published polemical articles about romanticism, or the political exiles in 1830s Paris who crafted libretti for operas by Bellini and Donizetti. Risorgimento Fantasies treats opera as one, highly prestigious and influential, strand of the multi-faceted cultural engagement of these men in defining a voice for Italy.
An important secondary area is performance studies, specifically the interpretation of movement and gesture in contemporary stagings of nineteenth-century opera. Some initial thoughts on this appear in “Defrosting Instructions” (in the Cambridge Opera Journal’s special issue on opera and performance theory, 2003). A longer essay, to appear next year in Opera Quarterly, traces trends in blocking and stage movement in productions of Rossini’s comic operas and interrogates the powerful affinity for Rossini’s comic works of Italian activist playwright and director Dario Fo. Other new and in-progress projects include an essay on Schumann’s opera Genoveva and his quasi-operatic compositions of the 1840s that reads the composer’s difficulties with the operatic genre in relation to both the crisis of German-language opera and Goethe’s aesthetics of the theater.


Books and Editions
Donizetti a Casa Ricordi: gli autografi teatrali, co-authored with Alessandra Campana and Emanuele Senici (Bergamo: Fondazione Donizetti, 1998)

Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera (edited collection) (Princeton University Press, 2000)

Reading Critics Reading: Criticism of French Opera from the Revolution to 1848, co-edited with Roger Parker (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Cambridge Opera Journal, 14/1-2 (2002); guest editor of double issue on Verdi

Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera (University of California Press, 2004)

Critical edition of Donizetti’s Dom Sébastien (in L’edizione critica delle opere di Gaetano Donizetti, Ricordi 2004)

Risorgimento Fantasies: Opera and Politics in Italy to 1848 (in preparation; expected completion 2009)

“The Silencing of Lucia,” Cambridge Opera Journal, 4/2 (July, 1992), 119-41; translated as “Lucia ridotta al silenzio,” Analisi: Rivista di Teoria e Pedagogia musicale V/13 (January, 1994), 6-15; V/14 (May, 1994), 3-12

“Bedlam Romanticized: Donizetti’s I pazzi per progetto,” L’opera teatrale di Gaetano Donizetti, ed. Francesco Bellotto (Bergamo: Comune di Bergamo, 1993), 197-218

“The Lost Voice of Rosine Stoltz,” Cambridge Opera Journal, 6/1  (March, 1994), 31-50; reprinted in En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera, ed. Corinne Blackmer and Patricia Juliana Smith (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

“In Excess,” (review article of David Lawton, ed., Critical edition of Verdi’s Il trovatore), Musical Times (January, 1995)

“‘Proud, Indomitable and Irascible’: Allegories of Nation in Attila and Les Vêpres siciliennes,” Verdi’s Middle Period (1849-59), ed. Martin Chusid (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 227-56

“Verdi Sings Erminia Frezzolini,” Women and Music I (1997), 14-26; reprinted in Verdi Newsletter (1998)

“Bellini, Vincenzo,” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 7th edition (London: Macmillan, 2000), Vol. 3, 194-212

“Donizetti, Gaetano,” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 7th edition (London: Macmillan, 2000), Vol. 7, 471-97

“Stoltz, Rosine,” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 7th edition (London: Macmillan, 2000), Vol.X

“In Praise of Convention: Formula and Experiment in Bellini’s Self-Borrowings,” Journal of the American Musicological Society (Spring 2000),

“Ulterior Motives: Verdi’s Recurring Themes Revisited,” Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera, ed. Smart (Princeton University Press, 2000), 135-59

“Liberty On (and Off) the Barricades: Verdi’s Risorgimento Fantasies,” in Making and Remaking Italy: The Formation of Cultural Identity around the Risorgimento, Albert Ascoli and Krystyna von Henneberg, eds. (Oxford: Berg, 2001), 103-118

“Mourning the Duc d’Orléans: Donizetti’s Dom Sébastien and the Social Meanings of grand opéra,” in Reading Critics Reading: Criticism of French Opera from the Revolution to 1848, ed. Parker and Smart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 188-212

“Bellini’s Fall from Grace,” Opera (March 2002), 278-84

“‘Cadere in ginocchio’: Melodrama and the Erasure of the Body in Middle-Period Verdi,” Proceedings of the the International Congress of Verdi Studies, ed. Marco Marica and Roberta Marvin (Olschki, 2002), 855-77

“Roles, Reputations, Shadows: Singers of grand opéra,” Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera, David Charlton, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 108-28

“Gender and Music,” Harvard Dictionary of Music, rev. edn. (Harvard University Press, 2003), 344-46

“Defrosting Instructions: A Response,” Cambridge Opera Journal 16/3 (2003), 311-18

“‘Seul sur la terre’: Donizetti’s Collaboration with Eugène Scribe on Dom Sébastien,” in Il teatro di Donizetti: percorsi e proposte di ricerca, ed. Luca Zoppelli (Venice: La Fenice, 2004), 53-73

“Verdi, Italian Romanticism, and the Risorgimento,” Cambridge Companion to Verdi, Scott Balthazar, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 29-45

“Verdi, 2001, and Us,” review-article of 8 books published in celebration of the Verdi centenary, Studi verdiani 20 (2005), 295-312

“Commentary: A Stroll in the Piazza, A Night at the Opera,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History special issue Opera and Society XXXVI/4 (Spring 2006), 621-7

“The Woman in Black: Bellini’s La straniera,” Opera (October 2007)

Michel Poizat, The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera, in Opera Quarterly (November, 1993)

Susan McClary, Feminine Endings, in Journal of Musicological Research, 14 (1994), 77-84

Ruth Solie, ed., Musicology and Difference, in Journal of the American Musicological Society, 47/3 (1994), 541-9

Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, eds., Queering the Pitch, in MLA Notes (June, 1995), 1280-83

James H. Johnson, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History, in 19th-Century Music XX/3 (Spring, 1997), 291-7

David Kimbell, Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, in Music and Letters 80/4 (November 1999), 631-4

Gary Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera, in 19th-Century Music XXIII/1 (1999), 103-109

Linda and Michael Hutcheon, Bodily Charm: Living Opera, in University of Toronto Quarterly (Fall 2001)

“Theorizing Gender, Culture and Music [review of Adriana Cavarero, A più voci: filosofia dell’espressione vocale],” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 6 (2005), 106-110


B.Mus (flute performance), McGill University, 1985
M.A. (music criticism), McMaster University, 1989
Ph.D. (musicology), Cornell University, 1994

Courses taught
Undergraduate: Opera, Beethoven, Art Song of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Twentieth-Century Opera and Performance Art, Thinking about Music
Graduate: Opera Seasons in European Capitals (Naples 1815, Milan 1830, Paris 1835); Between Lied and Opera: Musical Responses to Goethe; Absence and Desire in German Romantic Music; Opera and the Body; The Risorgimento in Music and Literature (co-taught with Professor Albert Ascoli, Italian Studies); Introduction to Musicology